John Bunting Q&A

CHAPEL HILL, NC--UNC head football coach John Bunting spoke to the media following the first football practice for the 2002 high school class of incoming freshmen.

Is it possible for the freshmen to be mentally ready for this?

"It's impossible. They've never been through something like this before – in most cases they haven't. We're practicing extremely fast. That's the way we did it last year, and that's the way we'll always do it. The game is played fast; you have to practice fast.

"There's nobody else out here. They take a look at that and cross themselves out. There's only one guy here, and he's working the whole time. We shortened practice and did some fundamental stuff, which was good for them. And we did some one-on-ones with the quarterbacks, wide-receivers, and linebackers and secondeary. We're limited in what we can do."

How many guys do you think will play this year?

"I think five, six, or seven guys will play. Tommy Richardson is going to get on the field. One or two of the defensive linemen will get on the field. I think Victor Worsley will get on the field. And I think one or two of the wide receivers will get on the field."

You singled Rainey out as a guy who was making some good plays, but he was a guy who had to take a break. Is that typical of freshman practice – they'll have some up's and down's?

"No doubt about it. Xavier has neve played linebacker. He's a defensive end, so we're converting him right now. I think he could be an awesome linebacker. For the first time, seeing him with his shorts on and jumping 10-plus feet in the standing broad jump, he is built down below like a big defensive end, so he may grow into a defensive end. But, right now, I'd like to see if he can play linebacker, because he can be an awesome linebacker. He's never done that before, so every step he takes out there is foreign."

You said he can grow into a defensive end. Is it weird that he's wearing number 49?

"I think it's appropriate. Those words came out of my mouth today. That could be the next [Julius Peppers]. He has an awesome build from the hips down, and he jumped through the roof in our testing today."

Could Xavier Rainey be one of the five-seven freshmen who could play, or do you anticipate red-shirting him?

"I want to see how that goes. If he has a chance to help us this year – he long-snaps also – if he has a chance to help us as a rush end, on special teams, and as a back-up linebacker, he'll see time because he is a phenomenal athlete. But he's got a long way to go as a linebacker because he's never played it before, and it's all foreign to him."

Can you talk about the "track guy" (Kevin Watson). How did it come to be that he's out there now?

"We recruited him the year before, and he decided that he was going to accept a track scholarship. He has missed football. Dennis Craddock and I have spoken, and we are going to give him a chance to play football, and it will be interesting to see if he does, in fact, like it like used to in high school. He has put on about 15 pounds since his freshman year, so he's bigger than he used to be.

"Dennis made a great point. He said that now [Watson] can have the taste of football and never will have to look back and say, 'I never gave it a chance.' He's going to give it the whole season, and we'll go from there."

Could you elaborate on the need to get a couple of those receivers playing time this year?

"I think [they'll play] on special teams or returns. I think the Ian Firestones and the Michael Gilmores have that ability. I think Derrele Mitchell has the ability to play at wide receiver right away. Firestone is competitive and has good hands – Gilmore likewise. Daunte Fields, I saw him fielding punts. As time goes on, we want to see if those guys can help on special teams first and help at wide receiver second."

Was Wooldridge doing most of the punting?

"We had two punters. We also had Justin Phillips, who is a walk-on. He did a great job. He boomed the ball. We brought him in as a tight end and he played quarterback for us today. He also was tremendous throwing the ball – very athletic. We're pleasantly surprised by that.

"David kicked and punted. He did both today. He's strong and he's hungry. Maybe he's a little over anxious right now, but he's fine. No doubt, he's in the mix. He'll be very competitive at those positions."

These guys just went through their first Division I practice. What do you think is going through their minds?

"I think some of them are really excited and they feel great about what they did. Some of them, I think their heads are spinning because I think that they saw how intensely we practice and the speed with which we practice and the way our coaches coach. I think they are very impressed."

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